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A messy and cliché-ridden film mocks the two sides it's attempting to bring together

The 2016 election was such a seismic shock to much of the American populace, that it was never in doubt that it would be milked for films and series in Hollywood. Many of these films will no doubt be exploitative of the moment, while others may seek to explore the ideological divisions that have occurred in the country. Ex Daily Show (1996-) host Jon Stewart, was a liberal haven for many Americans, but since he left his talk show, he’s been using his journalistic intellect to become a film director. His second outing Irresistible (2020) has finally come out.

Irresistible is the story of a Democratic campaign strategist Gary (Steve Carrell), who after the devastation of the 2016 election, finds hope in a small Mayoral race in Deerlaken, Wisconsin. There he has found a sympathetic candidate, veteran colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper), who he hopes to get elected as well as expand his ambitions nationwide. As Gary sees it, Jack is the perfect bridge between rural and coastal Democrats that were separated in 2016.

Stewart has had tough luck with the release dates of his films. His first film, Rosewater (2014) centered on the censorship and imprisonment of a journalist in Iran, decrying the lack of freedom of press there. However, the film came out at a time of protest suppression in Iran and a violent clash in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq between Iran, Russia, ISIS, and other forces. Thus, Stewart’s message of the urgency of freedom of press seemed to take a distant backseat in comparison with current events. A similar situation seems to have met Stewart with Irresistible. Not only has his film missed a theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but his depiction of ideological political divides seems to come from a distant past. The rural-urban divide seems to be the least of Americans’ worries right now.

Irresistible seems to fall into a few more potholes than untimeliness, however. Stewart seems unsure about how to portray the differences between coastal and inner America, resorting to clichés. Stewart shows Gary coming on a private jet, and constantly asking for Wi-Fi, while residents of Deerlaken are introduced having their arms up cows’ backsides or being completely naïve at using a call list. These uses of stereotypes not only insults both sides that Stewart is trying to bring together, but it also dumbs down the characters themselves. Gary is particularly left to be very unlikeable, with Carrell being grossly misdirected. Similarly, Cooper and his daughter (played by Mackenzie Davis) are spared more, only because they are made to keep silent most of the film. Even Rose Byrne, who appears in this film as a rival campaign strategist, is barely given two or three scenes, having her seem like cold and unemotional Republican, than an actual character. Thus, Irresistible is centered around a haranguing of stereotypes that would seem more at home in an early 2000s film like Sweet Home Alabama (2002) than a current film seeking to spark real conversations.

As for Irresistible’s finale, it suddenly brings a plot twist out of nowhere, changing the commentary of the film to one of campaign finance instead. This point is uncomfortably forced as the underlying lesson of the entire film, but the desperation of these final scenes gives away the incongruity they have with the first two acts. As a result, the film ends confusedly, with four alternate endings, and even a non-fiction interview during the credits. It seems like Stewart was cramming too many messages in a sloppily constructed finale, which seemed to want to veer towards his comedic non-fiction roots.

Rosewater was a competently constructed film, utilizing a great lead in Gael Garcia-Bernal, and brought a proper sense of claustrophobia. That film had a clear message and made a compelling argument through its story. Irresistible, however, seems more like a panicked and rushed response to 2016, which fails in its chaos at bringing any relativity to the fictional and non-fictional aspects of the film. In the end, the film is a disappointment, and a step back in the directorial ambitions of Stewart. Perhaps the non-fiction arena was better suited for him after all.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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